« PreviousContinue »
to all the three Persons, is too plainly declaring in facts what is disowned in words; and is laying aside that modesty in practice which is pretended in principle. It was high time to give a check to such dangerous innovations; and to warn your faithful Clergy against such scandalous abuses. Present and future generations will be obliged to your Lordship for your pious cares and wise endeavours in this behalf; and for so eminent an example of an unshaken firmness in those principles which alone can make our Church glorious or kingdom happy. From which should we ever be so infatuated and abandoned as to start or swerve, (which God forbid,) we should, from being the purest and most justly celebrated Church in the world, become the meanest and the most contemptible of any, (if we could still be called a Church ;) should expose ourselves inevitably to the just wrath and vengeance of Almighty God, and to the scorn and derision of all the Churches around us. That these and the like dangers and mischiefs may be effectually prevented or turned away from us, is the hearty prayer of,
Your Lordship's most obedient
and most humble Servant,
THE following Sermons may be looked upon as a Supplement to my Vindication of Christ's Divinity, before published. I intended them as such, avoiding repetition of the same things as much as I well could: or where I could not avoid bringing up again the same arguments, I have endeavoured to give them some farther light or strength; for the most part, enlarging upon what had been before but briefly hinted. I have entirely omitted the argument from worship, because I had distinctly and fully treated of it under Queries sixteenth and seventeenth. Some other arguments I have passed over, purely because I had not room for them. Those which I have taken and considered appear to me of as great weight as any; and more than sufficient to justify our belief in Christ Jesus as a Divine Person, coequal and coeternal with God the Father.
In my Vindication, &c. I was chiefly upon the offensive, against the adversaries of our common faith, demanding of them some clear and good proof of their pretensions in this momentous controversy; since they had hitherto produced nothing considerable enough to move any wise and good man to forsake that faith which has so long and so universally obtained, and with such visible marks of a Divine power accompanying it. They that undertake to alter the fundamental and universally received articles of the Christian faith, which may be traced up to the very infancy of Christianity, or as high as any records reach, ought to be well provided with reasons and arguments to make good such big pretences: otherwise they do but render their cause ridiculous, and expose their own
vanity. The presumption will always lie (especially in a point of this moment, in which it can hardly be supposed that God would ever have suffered his Church to be so long, so universally, and so lamentably deceived) on the side of prescription and long possession: and nothing less than clear and evident demonstration can have weight sufficient to bear up against it. This therefore is what I had reason to insist upon, and what I still demand of our new guides, if they hope to prevail any thing with considering men. I may farther demand of them to propose some other scheme opposite to the Catholic, and to clear it at least of all considerable objections. For if it appears that there are but three schemes, in the main, Arian, Socinian, and Catholic, one of which must be true; and that the two former are utterly repugnant to, or can neither of them be shown to be consistent with, the whole Scripture taken together; it will follow that the third is the true one, unless Scripture be inconsistent with itself; which is not to be supposed. This way of proving our point, though indirect, is notwithstanding just and solid; provided we can make it appear that neither the Arian nor Socinian (or what is nearly the same, Sabellian) hypothesis can tolerably account for several Scripture texts. But I have, in the following Sermons, chose, for the most part, to proceed more directly, giving the direct Scripture proofs of what has so long and so universally prevailed; that it may be seen that we have a great deal more than prescription or possession to plead for our principles. They are founded in the infallible word of God, fixed and rivetted in the very frame and constitution of the Christian religion. If our proofs of this, merely from Scripture, appear but probable, they are yet more and better than can be produced, merely from Scripture, for the contrary persuasion: and if what appears but probably to be taught in Scripture itself appears certainly to have been taught by the primitive and Catholic Church; such probability, so confirmed and strengthened, carries with it the force of demonstration. Not that I think our Scripture proofs to be barely
probable, though our cause would not suffer even by that supposition. I think them as clear and as strong as should be expected or desired in any case of this nature: and I know not whether the Scripture proofs of the Divinity, even of God the Father, his eternal, immutable, necessary existence, his omniscience, omnipresence, and other Divine attributes, might not be eluded and frustrated by such subtilties and artifices as are used to elude the Scripture proofs of the Divinity of God the Son.
It must however be allowed, that in all manner of controversy which depends upon interpretation of dead writings, he that undertakes to prove a point, or to establish a doctrine, lies under this disadvantage; that, as long as there appears any possibility of a different interpretation, an adversary may still demur, and demand farther evidence. Now, considering the great latitude and ambiguity of words and phrases, in all languages, (if a man would search into all the senses they are possibly capable of,) and that even the most full and express words may be often eluded by having recourse to tropes and figures, or to some other artificial turn of wit and criticism; I say, considering this, there may be always something or other plausibly urged against any thing almost whatever: but more especially if the point to be proved be of a sublime, mysterious nature; then, besides the advantage to be taken of words, there is farther ground of scruple or cavil from the thing itself. And here the objector has much the easier part, as it is always easier to puzzle, than to clear any thing; to darken and perplex, than to set things in a good light; to ask questions, than to answer them; to start difficulties, than to solve them. In a word, it is easier for the objector to show his own ignorance, and perhaps the other's too, than it is for either of them to be perfectly knowing, and able to extricate a subject out of all perplexity and doubtfulness. Hence it is that both Arians and Socinians have, for the most part, been content to object against the Catholic scheme, having talents very